With Radio Shack filing for bankruptcy, lots of geeky toys may go with it. Yes, the TRS-80 may be long gone, but so have most computers of that era. The thing I remember playing with was their electronics kits. These were simple introductions into circuits. Using spring terminals, you could build an AM radio, or morse code key, or 150 other projects (or more, depending on the exact set you got). About half mine actually worked, but it was a good way to spend an afternoon.
The spirit of this lives on, however, in Snap Circuits, which my daughter is even more fascinated with than I was the Radio Shack kits. Rather than a box of loose parts and springs you have to connect, each component is encased in plastic, with connections made with snaps. While it means you don’t actually get to hold a resister, you’re less likely to lose the part, and the projects seem to have a higher success rate–it’s not as finicky as the spring terminals. Many of the old projects of the Radio Shack kit are present, and some versions even have a computer interface. It’s a great toy to encourage an interest in STEM fields, not that I have much trouble encouraging that with my daughter.
My wife related a story where she was not the only one exploring electrical engineering.
Beso is a watcher. He likes to sit off to the side and observe what my daughter does. I often wonder if he has a notebook in which he jots his observations about life, in a manner like Thoreau. A week or so ago, my daughter was playing with her Snap Circuits. As pictured, Beso sat in the box lid, intently watching what she was up to. She made a circuit which had a switch, and an electric motor that turned a fan. She flipped the switch a few times, and had the fan spin, then stop. She then got up for a minute, leaving her project.
Beso took the opportunity to walk over and examine the breadboard. He sniffed around the motor, then put his paw on the switch and pushed. He wasn’t quite catching it, but it was clear he was paying enough attention to determine that’s what made the fan go. He tried from one side, then the other, only giving up when my daughter returned.
I’m not sure you’ll have the same result with Snap Circuits with your cats. However, I can certainly endorse it as a great education toy for the girls they love.
Having a kid is a great excuse to pull out various “skills” you had prior to adulthood, but have little reason to use today. I amazed my wife when I demonstrated I could make balloon animals. This weekend, I showed my daughter I could do a “thumbaround.”
As I may have mentioned, I was on the debate team in high school. For whatever reason, folk who did competitive speech in Louisiana in the mid-eighties all “twirled” their pens. I learned it sometime my freshman year of high school, throwing my Pilot BP-S around my thumb. The key thing was to get to the point where you could set it up, twirl, and reset with one hand consistently–otherwise, you were just trying too hard.
If you were really good, you could do both left and right hand simultaneously.
Don’t ask me to explain how I did it–it is somewhat like trying to explain how to tie your shoe. I know I was doing it in college, using a Cross Century ballpoint I was given as a high school graduation present. Once I started using fountain pens, I became worried about both damaging the nib and flinging ink everywhere. I rarely do this anymore.
Every now and then, though, when presented a supply cabinet pen, I give it a twirl, just to show I still got it.
Yesterday, we went to check our mailbox, where a lot of packages get sent. I’ve had it since I moved to Cincinnati in 1995. The people there basically have watched our daughter go from being carried in in a pumpkin seat eight-and-a-half years ago, to running in to check the box while we sit in the car. She’s becoming useful.
This time, my wife and I watched the folks hand her a box. As she closed the mailbox and came back, we tried to figure out what it might be. Neither one of us could recall having ordered something. No one’s birthday was particularly close. My daughter entered the car: the package was for me. She spent the rest of the car ride trying to open it (with my blessing).
The card said “congratulations” from GoodCook.com. It was a small whisk and a wooden spoon. Both look nice–the whisk will likely get pressed into frequent service for egg washes among other things. There was still the mystery of why it was sent to me.
I enter a lot of contests online, but didn’t remember winning this. My e-mail didn’t turn up anything. Finally, I poked around my twitter direct messages, and some of the associated feeds. It was part of a joint promotion with Cooking with Caitlin–the first thousand respondents received this package. It was about six weeks ago, so I guess I had forgotten, or assumed I was Mr. 1001.
So, thanks GoodCook.com and Cooking with Caitlin. It is both cool gear and a nice surprise on a Friday afternoon.
Tweet from the Field Museum‘s @SUEtheTrex: “I’m (ugh) squeezing into this leotard (grunt) and (ugh) tutu for Edgar Degas’ birthday. OK, let’s do this, Edgar. PAINT ME AS A BALLERINA!” (July 19)
I drew this in reply, which was retweeted:
Sue is the most complete tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on display, and the mascot of the Field Museum. Her twitter feed is full of interesting facts, and rather amusing. I’m honored to have been retweeted.
I’ve been a fan of whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, for a while now. I was pointed to a video of a wild whale shark that figured out how to get a free lunch.
I had an old tower computer it was time to recycle. On a whim, I harvested one of the fans from it. Touching its wires to a 9 volt battery, I was able to make it spin. I was momentarily amused.
I went to Radio Shack to get a proper clip for the battery, but decided that even the dollar-or-so for it wasn’t worth it–I figured I’d lose interest in it in a few days. However, they had a plan to convert a similar fan into a SquiggleBot. It was very simple, and I was able to strip down the instructions even more (just rubber-banding the wires to the battery). My daughter and I put it together tonight.
Not bad for some spare parts!